Lean Healthcare

Lean thinking may have been born in Toyota in the 1950s and 1960s, but it wasn’t until after the year 2000 that a few hospitals began to explore its application to the healthcare industry (lean healthcare). These pioneering organizations came together to share their stories at the first Global Lean Healthcare Summit in the UK in 2007, which in turn triggered many more experiments around the world. Since then, interest has kept growing.

Some fifteen years on, we have hundreds of examples to learn from, from clinics and departments through to entire hospitals and even whole hospital systems. Not all early experiments succeeded, and we are still a long way from making lean a widely recognized way of working across the industry.
Healthcare providers around the world still face huge challenges, as ageing populations and unhealthy lifestyles boost the demand for healthcare faster than the growth of incomes and tax revenues from the middle classes. At the same time, the quality of care has not improved as much as the quality of other services in the economy, which is why more and more healthcare organizations are turning to lean.

Historically, lean healthcare ideas have been applied in large hospitals, but in the past few years we have started to see the philosophy adopted in earnest in many smaller organizations following a do-it-yourself approach that has generated many positive benefits. An impressive example is the Consorci Sanitari del Garraf near Barcelona.

lean logistics holland

Revolutionizing warehousing in a hospital with lean thinking

FEATURE – The warehousing department of a Dutch hospital has been implementing lean for a few years. Its Head of Logistics believes in an approach to change based on respect for people and on making small but steady steps.

Lean is helping a Brazilian hospital fight dengue fever

FEATURE – By using lean management, the Hospital São Francisco (HSF) near São Paulo, Brazil, has improved its ability to deal with dengue epidemics – treating patients more quickly and efficiently.
hospital district helsinki lean healthcare

Lean healthcare at a large hospital district in Finland

CASE STUDY – The whole of Helsinki’s hospital district is leaning out, with incredible results. It isn’t every day that we come across – let alone have the opportunity to observe – a lean transformation in such a large healthcare organization.
Rosa Simon profile healthcare

Meet a champion of Catalonia’s lean healthcare movement

PROFILE – Lean is spreading like wildfire across the Catalonian healthcare sector, following a do-it-yourself model unique to this part of the world. Our editor met one of the practitioners who are making it happen.

Bringing lean principles to Australian cities and healthcare

PROFILE – This month we meet another member of the lean community, a true pioneer of lean thinking, who contributed to introducing the methodology in Australian cities and healthcare organizations.
lean healthcare UZA Antwerp

The lean journey of Antwerp University Hospital

CASE STUDY – How an improvement program of the British national healthcare system inspired a Belgian hospital to launch an organization-wide lean transformation with the active support of the HR and nursing departments.
Alice Lee profile

Alice Lee’s story – why lean learning and teaching coexist

PROFILE – While pioneering the application of lean thinking in healthcare, Alice Lee realized that you should always approach teaching as you do problem solving: scientifically, situationally, and with the humility of a learner.

The staff-driven transformation of a children’s hospital

FEATURE - What if it were your staff driving change rather than managers? A focus on improvement at the front line and on people development proved critical to the lean transformation of a Stanford hospital.
Transforming cancer treatment center Brazil

Lean leadership means advocating problem solving at gemba

PROFILE – It isn’t every day that you come across a hospital CEO coaching people on A3s and following his own standard work. So when you do, it’s important to share their story. This month we profile the CEO of a Brazilian cancer treatment center.
falkenburg doctor workstation huddle

Better work: bringing lean thinking to a doctor’s practice

FEATURE – Moving her assistant's workstation next to hers and introducing standardized work helped a family physician in California to provide better, faster care to her patients and to avoid burnout.
Toussaint update on lean healthcare

John Toussaint on lean thinking in healthcare

INTERVIEW – At the recent Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit in Brussels, Planet Lean editor Roberto Priolo sat down with John Toussaint to discuss the state of lean thinking in healthcare, its challenges and its opportunities.
lean healthcare james hereford COO

A COO at his third lean healthcare transformation

PROFILE – In this new section, Planet Lean features some of the most inspirational lean leaders out there. For the first profile, we have selected James Hereford, a former high school teacher who is now leading his third healthcare transformation.
lean to improve cancer care

When lean management matters most: improving cancer care

FEATURE ARTICLE – By adopting lean thinking and establishing a dedicated care pathway, a Brazilian hospital has been able to drastically reduce the time breast cancer patients have to wait to undergo surgery or start treatment.
helen zak lean healthcare interview

Interview with Helen Zak on lean healthcare challenges

INTERVIEW – At the recent European Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit, we sat down with Helen Zak for a few minutes to discuss the state of change in the healthcare sector.

Transforming your hospital using lean thinking

VIDEO CASE STUDY – In the past couple of years, the Consorci Sanitari del Garraf has been able to leverage the commitment of its people to perform a lean turnaround. Its story shows you don’t need lots of resources and money to do lean in a hospital.
hospital clinic barcelona lean healthcare DIY

DIY lean transformation at Barcelona’s Hospital Clinic

FEATURE ARTICLE – You don’t always need a lot of external help to initiate a lean transformation: the experience of the Emergency Department of the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona shows it can be done with very little support from the outside.
st elisabeth hospital lean healthcare

Putting “loving care” at the heart of a lean transformation

INTERVIEW – PL sits down with a consultant and a manager from the St Elisabeth hospital in the Netherlands to talk about the organization’s “loving care” approach to treating patients.
lean management emerson

Lean leadership and the opportunity for developing countries

ARTICLE – While supporting the adoption of lean in a Mozambican hospital, a young engineer learned a number of valuable lessons on leadership and what it really takes to help developing countries to grow.